Buhari to present 2017 budget Dec 1

•As senators condemn MTEF over unrealistic projections

IT emerged in the Senate on Wednesday that President Muhammadu Buhari will present the 2017 budget to the National Assembly on December 1.

Senate minority leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who gave out the information during a debate on the floor of the Senate, told his colleagues that the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, had confirmed that President Buhari would be presenting the new budget on December 1.

The development is coming on the heels of the decision by the Senate to debate the 2017 to 2019 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSS).

The document escaped the Senate’s hammer by the whiskers, even as the lawmakers declared that the document was full of “glaring shortcomings” and unrealistic projections.

Saraki, who asked that the document be referred to the Senate Committees on Appropriation and Finance, said the consideration of MTEF was a prerequisite for passage of the budget, adding that the committees on Finance and Appropriations were to organise a debate on the performance of the 2016 budget before the Senate would take their report on the MTEF.

He also agreed that the MTEF was full of unrealistic assumptions while he called on the senators to allow the Senate give it a second look at committee level.

“There is no doubt about the fact that these projections are not realistic. The Central Bank of Nigeria has said it is using N305 (to a dollar). There is no doubt as well that throughout this year, we did not achieve 2.2 million barrels per day; even in time of peace (in the oil rich Niger Delta), we have not achieved 2.5mbpd. How realistic is 2.2mbpd next year? The oil price as well looks conservative.

“Like some of our distinguished colleagues said, our responsibility is to work on it and use our capacity to do the right thing. We have our Committees on Appropriation and Finance that should not just take anything from the executive, sign it and return it (verbatim). If it means that we have to rehash it, look at it again, turn it around and do what is right, then, that is our responsibility.

“I think that is just the way to go rather than to just take a document from the executive and return the same to it. It is clear from what was submitted (by the lawmakers) today that it will not work like that this time around,” he said.

During the debate, senators, however, raised voices against the document before agreeing to send it to the committee for further consideration.

While making his contributions, Akpabio said “Yesterday (Tuesday), you made reference to the fact that the president may be coming to the chambers to submit and read the 2017 budget on December 1 (next week Thursday).

“If that is the case and we send this (MTEF) back for reworking by the Presidency, it means that we will not be able to meet that deadline.

“But if we send it to the committee level, they may come up with something within the next three days that will be much, much realistic ahead of the budget presentation itself,” he said.

He pleaded with the Senate not to throw out the MTEF document based on its unrealistic projections, adding that the committees could breathe live into the documents.